The VSS Enterprise got a taste of flight on Monday, March 22nd.
From the Cosmic Log at msnbc.com
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane took to the air for the first time this morning from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port.
The craft, which has been christened the VSS Enterprise, remained firmly attached to its WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane throughout the nearly three-hour test flight. It will take many months of further tests before SpaceShipTwo actually goes into outer space. Nevertheless, today’s outing marks an important milestone along a path that could take paying passengers to the final frontier as early as 2011 or 2012.
The captive-carry flight comes three and a half months after SpaceShipTwo’s unveiling in Mojave. The project, backed by British billionaire Richard Branson, builds upon the first-ever private-sector spaceflights, flown five years ago by the SpaceShipOne prototype plane. Both SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo were designed by aerospace guru Burt Rutan.
Today’s test was the first in a series aimed at checking the aerodynamics of the rocket plane in a controlled, real-world environment. The configuration for SpaceShipTwo is significantly different from that for SpaceShipOne (which is now hanging in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum) and its WhiteKnightOne mothership. SpaceShipOne was slung right beneath WhiteKnightOne’s fuselage, while SpaceShipTwo rides between WhiteKnightTwo’s twin fuselages.
Full details available at this link: http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2010/03/22/2237244.aspx